Philippine Dictionaries at King’s College

This whole project really began at the archives of the Maughan Library at King’s College in London. It was there that I first saw the elaborate bookplate of Alexander Dalrymple, Scottish geographer for the East India Company and Governor General of the Philippines for a brief time during the British Invasion of Manila from 1762-1764. It was this bookplate that would send me pin-balling through the cache of materials that came from the San Agustin library to where they had landed in various parts of the globe. The Maughan library’s practice of writing out very detailed research on the provenance of their rare books and manuscripts first allowed me to identify the volumes in the Marsden Collection that came from Dalrymple’s library, and from there,  door after door would open  and allow  us to reassemble one of the great lost libraries of the Spanish Empire.

There are several volumes in the Marsden Collection that carry Dalrymple’s bookplate. It is a mixture of all sorts of materials – from the histories of the Mongols to Aaron Hill’s  history of the Ottoman Empire. The collection also includes a signed copy of Dalrymple’s own book  Historical Collection of the Several Voyages and discoveries in the South Pacific Ocean  (Volume 1  is a collection of accounts of voyages  that Dalrymple translated from  Spanish documents captured in the British occupation of Manila in 1762). The signed copy at King’s College has a  dedicatory note from Dalrymple to Captain Richard Kempenfeldt. The then Captain Kempenfeldt. was with Alexander Dalrymple during the British occupation of Manila in 1762, and is famous for having hand-carried the copper plates of the Pedro Murillo Velarde Map as a  present to the King in London.  The ink inscription on the half-title seems to indicate that the volume  was passed on from Dalrymple to Kempenfelt and then on to  Marsden after the death of Kempenfelt  ( “who then being an Admiral, was lost in the Royal George.”). 

The Philippine Materials

The bulk of Dalrymple’s books in the  Marsden Collection, are dictionaries of several Philippine languages. Given that William  Marsden was known for his linguistic studies of  Austronesian languages,  (he had written a dictionary of the language of Sumatra and also some comparative studies of Austronesian scripts including the Baybayin) it is very likely that Marsden borrowed the volumes on Philippine languages from Dalrymple’s library. Dalrymple’s handwritten note on the inside of the Mattheo Sanchez’s Vocabulary de la Lengua Bisaya reads: “ This book is presented to William Marsden, Esq. on condition that if his collection of languages is separated, or sent out of England, it shall be returned to the library of his affectionate friend.

” The label is signed in ink with “ Dalrymple, 11th Febry 1800 High-Street Marybone”. Below this signature is another ink inscription which reads:

“ Subsequently bequeathed to WM by Will.”

Alexander Dalrymple died on 9th June, 1808, at the age of 71  in his house on 57 HIgh St. Marylebone. And Dalrymple’s will does in fact say that  he was bequeathing some of the volumes  in the library to Marsden. We can only assume that the bequeathal was before the massive multi-day auction of Dalrymple’s famous library a few months after his death.

These are the  volumes on Philippine languages from Dalrymple and later bequeathed to Marsden:

1) Vocabulary de la Lengua Tagala by Domingo De los Santos (d 1695) printed in Tayabas Philippines in 1703. Inscribed on the final printed page is a short prayer in Tagalog.

2) A manuscript entitled Arte de la Lengua Tagala written in 1697 by an unknown author.

3) A manuscript entitled Bucabulario tagalo by P.F. Miguel Ruiz (d. June 7 1630) This volume seems to have never been published. 

4) Arte de la Lengua Pámpanga by Diego Bergano ( 1690-1747) printed by the Convento de Nra. Señora de Loreto de el Pueblo de Sampaloc in 1736.

5)Vocabularia de la Lengua Bisaya by Mattheo Sanchez (1562-1618) printed by the Colegio de la Sagrada Compania de Jesus in  Manila by Gaspar Aquino de Belen in 1711.

6) A manuscript entitled  Bucabulario Yloco by Francisco Lopez written after 1631. Lopez was a missionary of the order of St Agustin and he published the “Doctrina Christiana of Cardinal Bellarmino into Ilocano.

The Prologo of the ‘Vocabulario de la lengua Ilocana’, 1849 and the MSS all give the following information (translated by W.H. Scott in correspondence with KCL): ‘Francisco Lopez, … applied himself diligently to making his Vocabulary of Romance into Iloco, after having printed his Bellarmino and his Grammar; but due to an early death… he was unable to print it or to make the Vocabulary he intended of Ilocano into Castilian. This latter, completed by…Fr. Jubilado Fray Jose Carbonel and circulated under the name Thesaurus, was amended and enlarged by Fr. Fray Miguel Albiol, minister of the town of Batac, of which we have many copies in this Ilocano province; but none of them printed, and all full of errors…. the Superiors … decided to give priority to collecting a common Vocabulary, … which could, by means of the press, be kept of such errors…’. [Signed by] Fr. Andres Carro 1794. No printed copy of this [1621 MS] appears to exist. Its relationship with the ‘Vocabulario de la lengua ilocana’ and the ‘Arte de la lengua iloca’ is unclear.

The Marsden Collection’s Dispersal

William Marsden presented his entire library of books and manuscripts to King’s College in 1835. In 1918 about a third of the collection was transferred to other colleges under the University of London.  The School of Oriental and African Studies for material in “oriental” languages and School of Slavonic and East European Studies.  The material at SOAS  that has been identified as part of the ransacked  San Agustin Library in Manila (and also has Dalrymple’s bookplate)  is a manuscript of   Alonso  Mentrida’s (1559-1637) Vocabulario de la lengua Bisaya Hiligueyna y Haraia de la Isla de Panai y Sugbu. The manuscript is dated circa 1628 and was later printed by Manuel y de D. Felis S. Dayot in 1841.

SOAS also received most of the Malay manuscripts  as well as comparative studies on Austronesian scripts including that of the Baybayin of the Tagalogs and from Pampanga. There does not seem to be any explanation as to why most of the Philippine language dictionaries were kept at King’s College and only one  Philippine language dictionary was given to SOAS. Perhaps it was an early indication of the exclusion of the Philippines from the general study of South East Asia, it being not a part of the British Commonwealth of nations.

Gaining Greater Visibility

With a bit more exposure through the AHRC-NEH grant, some of the materials from the 1762archive  have been highlighted in various exhibits  and conferences.  From  20 September 2022,  to 12 March 2023, the Maughan Library curated An open book: the Foyle unfolded at the Weston Room.  The  exhibition highlighted rare books, manuscripts and other items from the 16th century and included  the  Bucabulario yloco . It  also created  a QR code linking to the 1762 archive project website  with posts on social media.  Ms Katie Sambrook,  Head of Special Collections at the King’s College Library, curated the show. 

In the same vein, the  2022 Annual  Philippine Studies Conference at SOAS, with its focus on the Visayan Region of the Philippines, created a digital exhibit of Visayan words culled from the Mentrida dictionary.  As an example,  Mentrida records the Visayan term for “fierro” or iron as PUTHAO or its variant spelling POTHAO. He specifies that this is “fierro por labran” or iron for working. Some scholars have pointed out the Chinese origin of this native term. Mentrida also includes the use of the term for “soil with iron content” as in “puthaonon na duta.” Other uses of the word in Mentrida’s lexicon seem more metaphorical – for example that of a person with iron content (puthaonon nga tao). Aside from Puthao, there are various terms recorded for bladed weapons that would have had some iron content. The dictionary was likewise used for other  Visayan linguistic categories for  raw materials and processes used for the production of culturally significant objects. The digital exhibit  can be accessed through